(The Center Square) – As many Illinois school districts begin the fall semester with remote learning because of the pandemic, some parents have concerns about the impact social isolation could have on their children.
College of DuPage professors of psychology Azure Thill and Ada Wainwright said parents should encourage children to take breaks from the routine to engage in unstructured play.
“They are developing their own intellectual skills, they are learning how to figure things out on their own, they’re manipulating things with their hands to figure out how it works without an adult looking over their shoulder telling them how it works,” Thill said.
The professors point to the latest issue of the American Journal of Play where researchers found that children’s unscheduled playtime has been declining steadily over the past century. In Thill’s Educational Psychology class, the curriculum focuses on the importance of play and encourages future teachers to build play in their curriculum.
Thill said some children no longer know how to handle boredom.
“I think some parents have forgotten that it is OK to give kids downtime,” Thill said. “It’s OK to let kids be bored because out of boredom comes creativity.”
For teenagers, the pandemic led to the cancellation of events and limited many social activities. Wainwright said it is important for adolescents to stay in touch with their friends.
“A natural part of their social development is the pulling away from parents and the increasing importance of peers,” Wainwright said. “We need to allow them to still connect with their friends in safe and responsible ways.”
Thill said many teenagers have schedules that are too demanding and this period in time may help them slow down.
“Hopefully this pandemic is going to decrease the amount of responsibilities that we are requiring from teenagers so they can actually have a little bit more self-reflection time,” Thill said.